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The Animus as it Appears in the Images of the Unconscious
Having tried to show in the foregoing how the animus manifests itself outwardly and in consciousness, I would like now
to discuss how the images of the unconscious represent it, and how it appears in dreams and phantasies.
Learning to recognize this figure and holding occasional conversations and debates with it are further important steps on our way to discriminating between ourselves and the animus.
The recognition of the animus as an image or figure within the psyche marks the beginning of a new difficulty.
This is due to its manifoldness.
We hear from men that the anima almost always appears in quite definite forms which are more or less the same in all men; it is mother or loved one, sister or daughter, mistress or slave, priestess or witch; upon occasion it appears with contrasting characteristics, light and dark, helpful and destructive, now as a noble, and now as an ignoble being.
On the contrary, for women the animus appears either as a plurality of men, as a group of fathers, a council, a court, or some other gathering of wise men, or else as a lightning change artist who can assume any form and makes extensive use of this ability.
I explain this difference in the following way: Man has really experienced woman only as mother, loved one, and so on, that is, always in ways related to himself.
These are the forms in which woman has presented herself, the forms in which her fate has always been carried out.
The life of man, on the contrary, has taken on more manifold forms, because his biological task has allowed him time for many other activities.
Corresponding to the more diversified field of man’s activity, the animus can appear as a representative or master of any sort of ability or knowledge.
The anima figure, however, is characterized by the fact that all of its forms are at the same time forms of relationship.
Even if the anima appears as priestess or witch, the figure is always in a special relationship to the man whose anima it embodies, so that it either initiates or bewitches him.
We are again reminded of Rider Haggard’s She, where the special relationship is even represented as being centuries old.
But as has been said, the animus figure does not necessarily express a relationship.
Corresponding to the factual orientation of man and characteristic of the logos principle, this figure can come on the scene in a purely objective, unrelated way, as sage, judge, artist, aviator, mechanic, and so on.
Not infrequently it appears as a “stranger.”
Perhaps this form in particular is the most characteristic, because, to the purely feminine mind, the spirit stands for what is strange and unknown.
The ability to assume different forms seems to be a characteristic quality of spirit; like mobility, the power to traverse great distances in a short time, it is expressive of a quality which thought shares with light.
This is connected with the wish-form of thinking already mentioned.
Therefore, the animus often appears as an aviator, chauffeur, skier, or dancer, when lightness and swiftness are to be emphasized.
Both of these characteristics, transmutability and speed, are found in many myths and fairy tales as attributes of gods or magicians.
Wotan, the wind-god and leader of the army of spirits, has already been mentioned; Loki, the flaming one, and Mercury,
with the winged heels, also represent this aspect of the logos, its living, moving, immaterial quality which, without fixed qualities, is to a certain extent only a dynamism expressing the possibility of form, the spirit, as it were, that “bloweth where it listeth.”
In dreams or phantasies, the animus appears chiefly in the figure of a real man: as father, lover, brother, teacher, judge,
sage; as sorcerer, artist, philosopher, scholar, builder, monk (especially as a Jesuit); or as a trader, aviator, chauffeur, and so forth; in short, as a man distinguished in some way by mental capacities or other masculine qualities.
In a positive sense, he can be a benevolent father, a fascinating lover, an understanding friend, a superior guide; or, on the other hand, he can be a violent and ruthless tyrant, a cruel task-master, moralist and censor, a seducer and exploiter, and often, also, a pseudo-hero who fascinates by a mixture of intellectual brilliance and moral irresponsibility.
Sometimes he is represented by a boy, a son or a young friend, especially when the woman’s own masculine component is thus indicated as being in a state of becoming.
In many women, as I have said, the animus has a predilection for appearing in a plural form as a council which passes judgment on everything that is happening,
issues precepts or prohibitions, or announces generally accepted ideas.
Whether it appears most often as one person with a changing mask or as many persons at the same time may depend on the natural gifts of the woman in question, or on the phase of her development at the moment.
I cannot enter here into all the manifold, personal, phenomenal forms of the animus, and therefore content myself with a series of dreams and phantasies which show how it presents itself to the inner eye, how it appears in the light of the dream-world.
These are examples in which the archetypal character of the animus figures is especially clear, and which at the same time point to a development.
The figures in this series of dreams appeared to the woman concerned at a time when independent mental activity had become a problem, and the animus image had begun to detach itself from the person upon whom it had been projected.
There appeared then in a dream a bird-headed monster whose body was just a distended sac or bladder able to take on any and every form.
This monster was said to have been formerly in possession of the man upon whom the animus was projected, and the woman was warned to protect herself against it because it liked to devour people, and if this happened, the person was not killed outright but had to continue living inside the monster.
The bladder form pointed to something still in an initial stage – only the head, the characteristic organ for an animus, was differentiated. It was the head of a creature of the air; for the rest, any shape could arise.
The voracity indicated that a need for extension and development existed in this still undifferentiated entity. The attribute of greediness is illuminated by a passage from the Khandogya Upanishad/ which deals with the nature of Brahma.
It is said there:
“The wind is in truth the All-Devourer, for when the fire dies ut it goes into the wind, when the sun sets, it goes into the wind,
when the moon sets, it goes into the wind, when the waters dry up, they go into the wind, for the wind consumes them all. Thus it is with respect to the divinity. And now with respect to the self. The breath is in truth the All-Devourer, for when a man sleeps, speech goes into breath, the eye goes into breath, the ear too, and the manas, for the breath consumes them all. These then are the two All-Devourers; wind among the gods, and breath among living men.”
Together with this bird-headed creature of the an there appeared to the woman a sort of fire spirit, an elementary being consisting only of flame and in perpetual motion, calling himself the son of the “lower mother.”
Such a mother figure, in contrast to a heavenly, light mother, embodies the primordial feminine as a power that is heavy, dark, earth-bound, a power versed in magic, now helpful, now witch-like and uncanny, and often actually destructive. Her son, then, would be a chthonic fire-spirit, recalling Logi or Loki of northern mythology, who is represented as a giant endowed with creative power and at the same time as a sly, seductive rascal, later on the prototype of our familiar devil. In Greek mythology, Hephaestus, god of the fire of the earth, corresponds to him, but Hephaestus in his activity as smith points to a controlled fire, while the northern Loki incorporates a more elementary, undirected force of nature.
This earth fire-spirit, the son of the lower mother, is close to woman and familiar to her. He expresses himself positively in practical activity, particular!
Why in the handling of material and in its artistic treatment.
He is expressed negatively in states of tension or explosions of affect, and often, in a dubious and calamitous way, he acts as confederate to the primordial feminine in us, becoming the instigator or auxiliary force in what are generally termed “feminine devils’ or witches’ arts.”
He could be characterized as a lower or inferior logos, in contrast to a higher form which appeared as the bird-headed air creature and which corresponds to the wind-and-spirit-god, Wotan, or to the Hermes who leads souls to Hades.
Neither of these, however, is born of the lower mother, both belong only to a faraway, heavenly father.
The motif of the variable form returned again in the following dream where a picture was shown bearing the title, “Urgo, the Magic Dragon.”
A snake or dragon-like creature was represented in the picture together with a girl who was under his power.
The dragon had the ability to stretch out in all directions so that there was no possibility for the girl to evade his reach; at any movement of hers he could extend himself on that side and make escape impossible.
The girl, who can be taken as the soul, somewhat in the sense of the unconscious individuality, is a constantly recurring
figure in all these dreams and phantasies. In our dream picture she had only a shadowy outline, with blurred features.
Still entirely in the power of the dragon, each of her movements was observed and measured by him, so that her escape seemed impossible.
However, development is shown in the following phantasy, placed in India:
A magician is having one of his dancers perform before the king. Hypnotized by magic, the girl dances a dance of transformations, in which, throwing off one veil after another, she impersonates a motley succession of figures, both animals and men. But now, despite the fact that she has been hypnotized by the magician, a mysterious influence is exerted upon her by the king. She goes more and more into ecstasy. Disregarding the order of the magician to stop, she dances on and on, till finally, as though throwing off her body like a last veil, she falls to the earth, a skeleton. The remains are buried; out of the grave a flower grows, out of the flower, in t urn, a white woman.
Here we have the same motif, a young girl in the power of a magician whose commands have to be obeyed without choice.
But in the figure of the king, the magician has an opponent who sets a limit to the magician’s power over the girl and
brings it about that she no longer dances at command but of her own volition. The transformation, previously only indicated,
now becomes a reality, because the dancer dies and then comes up from the earth in a changed and purified form.
The doubling of the animus figure here is especially important; on the one hand, he appears as the mag1oan, on the other, as the king. In the magician, the lower form of the animus representing magic power is represented; it makes the girl take on or imitate various roles, while the king, as already said, embodies the higher principle which brings about a real
transformation, not just a representation of one.
An important function of the higher, that is, the personal animus, is that as a true psychopompos it initiates and accompanies the soul’s transformation.
A further variation of this theme is given in the same dream:
the girl has a ghostly lover who lives in the moon, and who comes regularly in the shallop of the new moon to receive a blood sacrifice which she has to make to him. In the interval, the girl lives in freedom among people as a human being.
But at the approach of the new moon, the spirit turns her into a rapacious beast and, obeying an irresistible force, she has to climb a lonely height, and bring her lover the sacrifice.
This sacrifice, however, transforms the moon-spirit, so that he himself becomes a sacrificial vessel, which consumes itself but
is again renewed, and the smoking blood is turned into a plant-like form out of which spring many-colored leaves and
In other words, by the blood received, that is, by the psychic energy given to it, the spiritual principle loses its dangerously
compulsive and destructive character and receives an independent life, an activity of its own.
The same principle appears as Bluebeard, a well-known form of animus handed down to us in story form.
Bluebeard seduces women and destroys them in a secret way and for equally secret purposes.
In our case, he bears the appropriate name of Amandus.
He lures the girl into his house, gives her wine to drink, and afterwards takes her into an underground chamber to kill her.
As he prepares himself for this, a sort of intoxication overcomes the girl. In a sudden impulse of love, she embraces the murderer, who is immediately robbed of his power and dissolves in air, after promising to stand by her side in the future as a helpful spirit.
Just as the ghostly spell of the moon-bridegroom was broken by the blood sacrifice – by the giving of psychic energy – so
here, by embracing the terrifying monster, the girl destroys his power through love.
In these phantasies I see indications of an important archetypal form of the animus for which there are also mythological
parallels, as, for example, in the myth and cult of Dionysus.
The ecstatic inspiration which seized the dancer in our first phantasy and which overcame the girl in the story of
Bluebeard-Amandus is a phenomenon characteristic of the Dionysian cult.
There also it is chiefly women who serve the god and become filled with his spirit.
Roscher emphasizes the fact that this service of Dionysus by women is contrary to the otherwise general custom of having the gods attended by persons of their own sex.
In the story of the moon-spirit, the blood sacrifice and transformation of the girl into an animal are themes for which parallels can also be found in the cult of Dionysus.
There, living animals were sacrificed or torn to pieces by the raving maenads in their wild and god-inflicted madness.
The Dionysian celebrations also differed from the cults of the Olympic gods in that they took place at night on the mountains and in the forests, just as in our phantasy the blood-offering to the moon-spirit took place at night on a mountain top.
Some familiar figures from literature come to mind in this connection, is, for instance, the Flying Dutchman, the Pied Piper or Rat Catcher of Hamelin, and the Water Man or Elfin King of folk songs, all of whom employ music to lure maidens into their water- or forest-kingdoms. The “Stranger” in Ibsen’s Lady from the Sea is another such figure in a modern setting.
Let us consider more closely the Rat Catcher as a characteristic form of the animus.
The tale of the Rat Catcher is familiar: he lured the rats from every crack and corner with his piping; they had to follow him, and not only the rats, but also the children of the city – which had refused to reward his services – were irresistibly drawn after him and made to disappear into his mountain.
One is reminded of Orpheus who could elicit such magic sounds from his lyre that men and beasts were forced to follow him.
This feeling of being irresistibly lured and led away into unknown distances of waters, forests, and mountains, or even into the underworld, is a typical animus phenomenon, it seems to me, and difficult to explain because, contrary to the other activities of the animus, it does not lead to consciousness but to unconsciousness, as these disappearances into nature or the underworld show.
Odin’s Thorn of Sleep, which sent any person it touched into a deep slumber, is a similar phenomenon.
The same theme is very tellingly formulated in Sir James M. Barrie’s play, Mary Rose.
Mary Rose, who has accompanied her husband on a fishing expedition, is supposed to be waiting for him on a small island called “The Island-That-Wants-To Be-Visited.”
But while she waits, she hears her name called; she follows the voice and vanishes completely.
Only after a lapse of many years does she reappear, still exactly as she was at the time of her disappearance, and she is convinced that she has been on the island only a few hours, in spite of all the years that have intervened.
What is depicted here as vanishing into nature or the underworld, or as a prick from the Thorn of Sleep, is experienced
by us in ordinary living when our psychic energy withdraws from consciousness and from all application to life, disappearing into some other world, we know not where.
When this happens, the world into which we go is a more or less conscious phantasy or fairy land, where everything is either as we wish it to be or else fitted out in some other way to compensate the outer world.
Often these worlds are so distant and lie at such depths that no recollection of them ever penetrates our waking consciousness.
We notice, perhaps, that we have been drawn away somewhere but we do not know where, and even when we return to ourselves we cannot say what took place in the interval.
To characterize more closely the form of the spirit which is acting in these phenomena, we might compare its effects to those of music.
The attraction and abduction is often, as in the tale of the Rat Catcher, effected by music.
For music can be understood as an objectification of the spirit; it does not express knowledge in the usual logical, intellectual sense, nor does it shape matter; instead, it gives sensuous representation to our deepest associations and most immutable laws.
In this sense, music is spirit, spirit leading into obscure distances beyond the reach of consciousness; its content can hardly be grasped with words – but strange to say, more easily with numbers – although simultaneously, and before all else, with feeling and sensation.
Apparently paradoxical facts like these show that music admits us to the depths where spirit and nature are still one – or have again become one.
For this reason, music constitutes one of the most important and primordial forms in which woman ever experiences spirit.
Hence also the important part which music and the dance play as means of expression for women.
The ritual dance is clearly based on spiritual contents.
This abduction by the spirit to cosmic-musical regions, remote from the world of consciousness, forms a counterpart to
the conscious mentality of women, which is usually directed only toward very immediate and personal things.
Such an experience of abduction, however, is by no means harmless or unambiguous.
On the one hand, it may be no more than a lapse into unconsciousness, a sinking away into a sort of sleeping twilight state, a slipping back into nature, equivalent to regressing to a former level of consciousness, and therefore useless, even dangerous. On the other hand it may mean a genuine religious experience and then, of course, it is of the highest value.
Along with the figures already mentioned, which show the animus in a mysterious, dangerous aspect, there stands another
figure of a different sort. In the case we are discussing, it is a star-headed god, guarding in his hand a blue bird, the bird of the soul.
This function of guarding the soul belongs, like that of guiding it, to the higher supra-personal form of the animus.
This higher animus does not allow itself to change into a function subordinate to consciousness, but remains a
superior entity and wishes to be recognized and respected as such. In the Indian phantasy about the dancer, this higher,
masculine spiritual principle is embodied in the figure of the king; thus, he is a commander, not in the sense of a magician
but in the sense of a superior spirit having nothing of the earth or the night about him. He is not a son of the lower mother,
but an ambassador of a distant, unknown father, a suprapersonal power of light.
All these figures have the character of archetypes – hence the mythological parallels – as such they are correspondingly
impersonal, or supra-personal, even though on one side they are turned toward the individual and related to her.
Appearing with them is the personal animus that belongs to her as an individual; that is, the masculine or spiritual element which corresponds to her natural gifts and can be developed into a conscious function or attitude, coordinated with the totality of her personality.
It appears in dreams as a man with whom the dreamer is united, either by ties of feeling or blood, or by a common activity. Here are to be found again the forms of the upper and lower animus, sometimes recognizable by positive and negative signs. Sometimes it is a long-sought friend or brother, sometimes a teacher who instructs her, a priest who practices a ritual dance with her, or a painter who will paint her portrait.
Then again, a workman named “Ernest” comes to live in her house, and an elevator boy, “Constantin,” takes service with her. Upon other occasions, she has to struggle with an impudent rebellious youth, or she must be careful of a sinister Jesuit, or she is offered all sorts of wonderful things by Mephistophelian tradesmen.
A distinctive figure, though appearing only rarely, is that of the “stranger.”
Usually this unknown being, familiar to her in spite of his strangeness, brings, as an ambassador, some message or command from the distant Prince of Light.
With the passage of time, figures such as these described here become familiar shapes, as is the ae in the Outer world
with people to whom one is close or whom one meets often.
One learns to understand why now this figure, now that appears.
One can talk to them, and ask them for advice or help, yet often there is occasion to guard oneself against their insistence,
or to be irritated at their insubordination.
And the attention must always be alert to prevent one or another of these forms of the animus from arrogating supremacy to itself and dominating the personality.
To discriminate between oneself and the animus, and sharply to limit its sphere of power, is extraordinarily important; only by doing so is it possible to free oneself from the fateful consequences of identifying with the animus and being possessed by it. Hand in hand with this discrimination goes the growth of consciousness and the realization of the true Self, which now becomes the decisive factor.
In so far as the animus is a supra-personal entity, that is, a spirit common to all women, it can be related to the individual
woman as a soul guide and helpful genius, but it cannot be subordinated to her conscious mind.
The situation is different with the personal entity which wishes to be assimilated, with the animus as brother, friend, son, or servant.
Confronted with one of these aspects of the animus, the woman’s task is to create a place for it in her life and personality, and to initiate some undertaking with the energy belonging to it.
Usually our talents, hobbies and so on, have already given us hints as to the direction in which this energy can become active.
Often, too, dreams point the way, and in keeping with the individual’s natural bent, mention will be made in them of
studies, books, and definite lines of work, or of artistic or executive activities.
But the undertakings suggested will always be of an objective practical sort corresponding to the masculine entity which the animus represents.
The attitude demanded here – which is, to do something for its own sake and not for the sake of another human being – runs counter to feminine nature and often can be achieved only with effort.
But this attitude is just what is important, because otherwise the demand that is part of the nature of the animus, and
therefore justified, will obtrude itself in other ways, making claims which are not only inappropriate, as has already been
said, but which produce precisely the wrong effects.
Apart from these specific activities, the animus can and should help us to gain knowledge and a more impersonal and reasonable way of looking at things.
For the woman, with her automatic and oftentimes altogether too subjective sympathy, such an achievement is valuable; it can even be an aid in the field most peculiarly her own, that of relationship.
For example, her own masculine component can help her to understand a man – and this should be emphasized – for even
though the automatically functioning animus, with its inappropriate “objectivity,” does have a disturbing effect on
human relationships, nonetheless, it is also important for the development and good of the relationship that the woman
should be able to take an objective, impersonal attitude.
Thus we see that there are not only intellectual activities in which animus power can work itself out, but that above all it makes possible the development of a spiritual attitude which sets us free from the limitation and imprisonment of
a narrowly personal standpoint.
And what comfort and help it gives us to be able to raise ourselves out of our personal troubles to supra-personal thoughts and feelings, which, by comparison, make our misfortunes seem trivial and unimportant!
To attain such an attitude and to be able to fulfil the appointed task, requires, above everything else, discipline,
and this bears harder on woman, who is still nearer to nature, than on man. Unquestionably, the animus is a spirit which does not allow itself to be hitched to a wagon like a tame horse.
Its character is far too much that of the elemental being; for our animus may lag leadenly behind us in a lethargy, or confuse us with unruly, flickering inspirations, or even soar entirely away with us into thin air.
Strict and unfailing guidance is needed to control this unstable directionless spirit, to force it to obey and to work toward a goal.
For a large number of women today, however, the way is different.
I refer to those who through study or some other artistic, executive, or professional activity, have accustomed
themselves to discipline before they became aware of the animus problem as such.
For these, if they have sufficient talent, identification with the animus is entirely possible.
However, as far as I have been able to observe, the problem of how to be a woman frequently arises in the midst of the most successful professional activity.
Usually it appears in the form of dissatisfaction, as a need of personal, not merely objective values, a need for nature, and femininity in general.
Very often, too, the problem arises because these women, without wanting to, become entangled in difficult relationships;
or, by accident or fate, they stumble into typically feminine situations toward which they do not know what attitude to take.
Then their dilemma is similar to that of the man with respect to the anima; that is, these women, too, are confronted with the difficulty of sacrificing what, to a certain degree, is a higher human development, or at least a superiority.
They have to accept what is regarded as less valuable, what is weak, passive, subjective, illogical, bound to nature in a word, femininity.
But in the long run both these different ways presuppose the same goal, and whichever way we go, the dangers and difficulties are the same.
Those women for whom intellectual development and objective activity are only of secondary importance are also in danger of being devoured by the animus, that is, of becoming identical with it.
Therefore it is of the greatest importance that we have a counterpoise which can hold the forces of the unconscious in check and keep the ego connected with the earth and with life.
First and foremost, we find such a check in increasing consciousness and the ever firmer feeling of our own individuality;
secondly, in work in which the mental powers can be applied; and last but not least, in relationships to other people which establish a human bulwark and orientation point, over against the supra- or non-human character of the animus.
The relationship of a woman to other women has great meaning in this connection.
I have had occasion to observe that as the animus problem became acute, many women began to show an increased interest in other women, the relationship to women being felt as an ever-growing need, even a necessity.
Perhaps this may be the beginning of a feminine solidarity, heretofore wanting, which becomes possible now only through our growing awareness of a danger threatening us all.
Learning to cherish and emphasize feminine values is the primary condition of our holding our own against the masculine principle which is mighty in a double sense – both within the psyche and without.
If it attains sole mastery, it threatens that field of woman which is most peculiarly her own, the field in which she can achieve what is most real to her and what she does best – indeed, it endangers her very life.
But when women succeed in maintaining themselves against the animus, instead of allowing themselves to be devoured by it, then it ceases to be only a danger and becomes a creative power.
We women need this power, for, strange as it seems, only when this masculine entity becomes an integrated part of the soul and carries on its proper function there is it possible for a woman to be truly a woman in the higher sense, and, at the same time, also being herself, to fulfil her individual human destiny. ~Emma Jung, Animus and Anima, Page 27-43
- C. G. Jung. Psychological Types. New York: Harcourt, Brace 8c Co., Inc., 1 926. Chap. XI, sects. 48, 49; also “The Relations Between the Ego and the Unconscious” in Two Essays on Analytical Psychology. Bollingen Series XX. New York: Pantheon Press, 1 953. Pt. II, Chap. II.
- Concerning the concept of psychic reality, see the works of C. G. Jung, especially Psychological Types, l.c., Chap. I.
- See M. Esther Harding. The Way of All Women. New York: Longmans, Green & Co., 1933.
- Lucien Levy-Bruhl. Primitive Mentality. London: G. Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1923, and The Soul of the P1·imitive. New York: The Macmillan Co., 1928.
- C. G. Jung. Psychological Types. l.c., Chap. XI, sect. 30.
- Excellent examples of animus figures are to be found in fiction, see Ronald Fraser. The Flying Draper. London: Jonathan Cape, 1924; also Rose A nstey. London: Jonathan Cape, 1 930; Marie Hay.
The Evil Vineyard. Leipzig: Tauchnitz, 1924; Theodore Flournoy. From India to the Planet Mars. Translated by D. B. Vermilye. New York: Harper Bros., 1900.
- “Khandogya” in The Upanishads. Translated by F. Max Mueller. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1900, p. 58.
- See W. J. Roscher. Lexikon der gliechischen und romischen Mythologie, under “Dionysus.”
- C. G. Jung. Psychological Types. l.c., Chap. XI, sect. 26; also Two Essays. l.c., p. 135.